Here's the publisher's blurb:
Discover the world before The Wind in the Willows, the beloved classic by Kenneth Grahame--when the childhood adventures of best buds Ratty, Toady, Badger and Mole were just beginning! In this first tale, Archibald Toad the Third is used to having everything he wants to himself. So he's in for an unpleasant surprise when the new nanny brings her gentle son, Badger, to share in all that Toad Hall has to offer. Though Toady and Badger get off to a rocky start, they soon learn that having a true friend is worth a whole lot more than having all the toys in the world.
I haven't read the book, and I haven't even seen it, so I have no opinion as to its merits as an illustrated story. But I am doubtful.
My first doubt: I love The Wind in the Willows, in no small measure because of Ernest Shepard's illustrations. Ms. Begin, whose version of the Wind in the Willows came out in 2002, is a very talented artist, but why gild the lily?
My second doubt: Badger and Toad can't be kids together because they aren't the same age. Surely Badger is much older! And now I shall have to comb the book for textual support for my position....And Mole met everyone for the first time as a grown up, not as a child, which the blurb implies.
My third doubt (this one is weaker): Personality-wise, Badger and Toad are so different that it is hard to imagine them as childhood friends. But that's debatable, and possibly the book manages to make this convincing.
My fourth doubt: Badger's mother has supposedly been hired by Toad's family as a nanny. But Badger's family has its very large and comfortable ancestral set in the woods, and Badger seems prosperous and self-sufficient. I don't see why Mrs. Badger would have to go out to work.
My fifth, not really a doubt, but a feeling of unease: Badger has a mother ??!! I can only remember two female characters in W. in W. -- the jailer's daughter and the washerwoman. It is hard to imagine Badger in particular having much to do with a female character...
And finally, not a doubt at all but a strong feeling of unease: if a story is strong enough to be a good story, it does not need to be built on the scaffolding of a beloved childhood classic. I don't like, in general, spin-offs from the books I love, and I don't much care for fan fiction. And anyway, I have never felt that the back story of W. in W. was an aching gap. Maybe others have. But I prefer to have things get all misty around the edges of the known text, allowing every reader to imagine their own way (if they want to) from where the author left off (at least, when it's a book from my childhood that I love).
And now I am trying to thing of examples where other people coming in and writing back story was a good thing that resulted in books I like. With the possible exception of some sci. fi., I am not coming up with anything...
I am, however, coming up with good ideas for other books--I think someone has done the picture books of Black Beauty's childhood, but for older readers, how about the graphic novel about what really happened to Ginger after she and Black Beauty were parted...or perhaps picture books from the perspective of Heidi's goats (one could tie this in to a discussion of global warming and the vanishing alpine glaciers).